Understanding Day 1 CPT and Whether It Is Right for You
Understanding Day 1 CPT and Whether It Is Right for You
The ability to obtain relevant work experience, continue working in one’s chosen field, or maintain one’s nonimmigrant status are chief concerns for many foreign nationals studying and working in the United States (U.S.). These matters may become an even greater focus of an individual’s short and long-term planning if they were not selected in the H-1B lottery, were recently terminated, or have been unable to find employment after graduating. For foreign nationals in these situations and others that may affect their ability to lawfully work or remain in the United States, enrolling in a new degree program and engaging in practical training is an appealing option.
In this article, we will discuss a popular method used to study and work in the U.S. when immediate work authorization is needed: Day 1 CPT. We will also address the pros and cons of Day 1 CPT and provide resources for further learning if you decide Day 1 CPT is the best choice for you.
If you have more questions after reading this article, please contact us for a consultation. We will be happy to discuss your options in more detail.
- Comparing CPT and Day 1 CPT
- Legality of Day 1 CPT
- Advantages and Disadvantages of Day 1 CPT
- Is Day 1 CPT Right for Me?
- Selecting a Day 1 CPT University and Program
- How Do I Obtain Day 1 CPT?
What is Day 1 CPT and How Does it Differ from CPT?
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is one of two types of practical training opportunities – the other being Optional Practical Training (OPT) – offered to F-1 students who wish to gain full-time or part-time work experience that is directly related to their degree program. As implied by its name, CPT is meant to operate in tandem with the curriculum, occurring during the degree program and before graduation. OPT, on the other hand, can occur during the degree program or after graduation.
Typically, CPT is authorized after the completion of 1 full academic year. Exceptions exist for those who have already completed an academic program in the U.S., which is how we have “Day 1 CPT” as a concept for international students pursuing another degree. A degree which makes engagement in relevant work experience an essential element of the curriculum, thereby justifying immediate work authorization. In these cases, CPT would start on the first day (or day 1) of this new academic degree program. From that point, Day 1 CPT would operate much the same way as traditional CPT.
Legality of Day 1 CPT
Although not explicitly outlined in the Code of Federal Regulations like traditional CPT and OPT, Day 1 CPT is legal and permitted via an exception to the one academic year requirement found at 8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(i). This exception does not automatically attach to every eligible F-1 student, though.
According to the regulations and a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement primer on practical training, only the school’s Designated School Official (DSO) can authorize Day 1 CPT. The school and DSO are also responsible for determining eligibility requirements for CPT, Day 1 CPT, degree programs, and students. This is not the responsibility of USCIS but the DSO must ensure that the school’s self-determined requirements adhere to USCIS policies and immigration regulations.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Day 1 CPT
For many foreign nationals, Day 1 CPT may be the only option available to ensure they can continue working in the U.S. It is also an option that can be used to improve one’s future employability. Whatever the reason may be in choosing Day 1 CPT, awareness of the positives as well as the potential risks is vital.
Starts on day 1 of the academic program.
1 year of full-time CPT results in ineligibility for OPT.
Ability to continue working for the same employer without interruption.
Training opportunity/job offer must be in place before CPT can be authorized.
Can bridge gap in legal status between expiring OPT and approaching H-1B.
Not being explicitly featured on any USCIS website means USCIS has not offered clear instructions on Day 1 CPT.
Part-time and full-time options.
Not available for every degree program.
Multiple CPT authorizations permitted at the same time.
Not available at every university. Day 1 CPT universities are also more likely to be private institutions and tuition can be costly.
Authorized by a DSO and not USCIS, possibly resulting in a faster approval.
May raise flags about your proper maintenance of F-1 status, which could affect future immigration processes, like change of status from F-1 to H-1B, green card, travel, visa applications, etc.
Flexible course schedules and attendance policies, like online classes and weekend class meetings.
Some Day 1 CPT universities and programs have been identified by USCIS as questionable or fraudulent. Take extreme care in selecting a school and program.
Scholarship opportunities for international students are available and can be utilized.
High likelihood of receiving a request for additional evidence (RFE) after H-1B selection.
Increases skillset and knowledge with additional degree program and work experience.
Management of a full-time job and a full course of study.
Is Day 1 CPT the Right Option for Me?
Now that you have a greater understanding of Day 1 CPT, you should determine if it is a viable option. If any of the following apply to you, then Day 1 CPT might be the right path for you.
- F-1 visa holder whose OPT will expire before the next H-1B lottery.
- Individuals looking to change status to F-1 from another non-immigrant status like B-1 or J-1 within a short period of time.
- International students who want to pair their course work with specific work experience.
- Recently terminated individuals in need of emergency or immediate enrollment/F-1 status and work authorization.
- Dependents without work authorization (e.g., F-2s, H-4s without EADs, etc.) who would otherwise like to work in the U.S.
- Individuals whose OPT was not approved.
- International students with academic issues or possibly an expulsion from another university.
Selecting a Day 1 CPT University and a Day 1 CPT Program
Not all universities offer Day 1 CPT. The universities that do offer Day 1 CPT are primarily private institutions and are commonly referred to as “Day 1 CPT Universities.” In most cases, these are not brand-name, top-rated universities.
Not all degree programs have Day 1 CPT options. At a Day 1 CPT University, Day 1 CPT is usually aligned with graduate-level or higher degree programs in STEM fields.
Also, Day 1 CPT Universities and Day 1 CPT Programs often receive heightened scrutiny from USCIS. As a result, not all Day 1 CPT Universities are created equally. Some are better-known and reputable while others have questionable histories. Because of this, it is imperative that you do your research before selecting a school and a program. The key characteristics you should identify before proceeding include:
- The school’s reputation and accreditation. A school’s history, notoriety, academic options, and accreditation status can be found on the school’s website. Confirmation of accreditation can also be found on the Department of Education’s webpage about college accreditation in the U.S.
- Possession of Day 1 CPT authorization and relevant Day 1 CPT program(s) for your career/field of work.
- Whether the Day 1 CPT University and Day 1 CPT Program allow you to progress in your career and education. You should not be repeating degree programs or fields of study. USCIS may flag your case if you have a master’s in Computer Science and are now pursuing a second master’s degree in Computer Science rather than say a master’s degree in Cyber Security or a doctoral degree or PhD.
- Clearly stated attendance, class format, and coursework requirements and whether the school relies entirely on remote/virtual learning.
- F-1 visa holders cannot engage in purely online learning, so on-site classes must exist and must be a requirement of the CPT program. If bi-weekly on-site classes or hybrid programs work better for you than daily or monthly class requirements, choose a school and program with that option.
- A full course of study with typical educational requirements (i.e., credit hours, prerequisites, elective courses, completion of classwork, minimum GPAs, etc.) must be offered by the school and maintained by the foreign national.
- Whether the school has negative press or has failed to adhere to USCIS regulations or CPT requirements in the past.
- Location. Location. Location.
- You must comply with all academic and CPT requirements, including in-person class attendance. Selecting a school that enables easy travel to and from class is crucial. The school’s distance from you may also be a feature USCIS questions in an RFE, so it should not be overlooked or disregarded as irrelevant.
Please refer to the FAQs section below for a list of the most popular and well-known Day 1 CPT universities.
How Do I Obtain Day 1 CPT?
Unlike OPT, CPT and Day 1 CPT do not require prior approval from USCIS. Authorization comes from the school’s DSO and is not usually a lengthy process (possibly 2-3 weeks). But your ability to be approved for Day 1 CPT depends on your job, the school’s enrollment process, the DSO’s approval, and whether CPT is integral to your intended course of study.
Your Day 1 CPT application process will typically unfold in the following way:
- Select a Day 1 CPT University and receive an offer of admission.
- Obtain a new job offer or possess continuing employment.
- Select a Day 1 CPT program.
- Request Day 1 CPT approval from the DSO.
- This request requires timely submission of all applications, fees, and paperwork. Items you should have on hand include your offer of employment, I-94, the CPT agreement signed by your employer, and tuition payment.
- Await CPT approval and a new I-20 with day 1 CPT authorizations for your new school and employer.
- You may not start work until you receive your CPT authorization. The dates of authorization are outlined by employer on Form I-20.
Frequently Asked Questions
If Day 1 CPT is legal, why don’t I see it mentioned much on official USCIS webpages?
- CPT and practical training are explicitly outlined in the Code of Federal Regulations at 8 CFR 214.2(f)(10), but “Day 1 CPT” is not an official term. It is, however, common parlance amongst international students, universities, employers, practitioners, and other stakeholders.
- This is because the regulations allow F-1 students who have already completed an academic program in the U.S. to pursue a new degree and simultaneously obtain CPT, thus Day 1 CPT is available to them at the start of this new program.
- Notably, official government sites discussing practical training confirm that a DSO can authorize CPT during a student’s first semester if the graduate program requires such work experience. The implication of this statement is that Day 1 CPT is permitted so long as it is required by the graduate degree program.
What are the top universities offering Day 1 CPT?
- Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, Campbellsville University, Westcliff University, Trine University, Monroe College, New England College, Sofia University, University of the Cumberlands, International Technological University, United States University, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Wichita State University, Virginia International University, Stratford University, Everest University, Hamline University, CiAM, and Sullivan University.
I am aware of the potential risks and still would like to obtain Day 1 CPT. How can I best prepare myself to demonstrate that I am enrolled in a valid CPT program and am properly maintaining my F-1 status?
- Select a Day 1 CPT University with a good record with USCIS and low rate of RFE issuance.
- Retain copies of all documents related to your school attendance and coursework. This includes: I-20s; official transcripts and degree certificates; receipts for tuition payments, schools fees, books, parking passes, etc.; student IDs; course syllabi or outlines; course catalogs; enrollment letter; and attendance reports.
- Keep track of all transportation and lodging details when traveling to the university if it is in a different location.
- Be able to prove that you maintain a U.S. residence through utility bills, lease agreements, etc.
- Maintain communication with the school’s DSO and keep track of CPT authorization periods and times for renewal.
- Be able to explain how immediate participation in CPT was required for your academic program. Retain copies your CPT cooperative agreements, offer letters, employment verification letters, and payroll records for further proof.
What if I receive an RFE that questions my maintenance of status or my Day 1 CPT?
- First, you should contact an immigration lawyer for assistance if you receive an RFE. ILG has dealt with RFEs questioning Day 1 CPT on numerous occasions, so we are prepared to respond in the event that a petition receives an RFE.
- Depending on the nature of the request, you may also need to reach out to your school’s DSO. The more well-known Day 1 universities typically have fielded many questions (or RFEs) about their CPT programs so they are well-versed and have processes in place to assist students if USCIS challenges a change of status (F-1 CPT to H-1B) petition via RFE. The school can help you respond to the RFE with evidence that proves this F-1 program requires Day 1 CPT and CPT is integral to the program.
Can I renew my CPT for another semester?
- Toward the end of your first semester, your school will contact you about CPT renewal. Follow the instructions you are given and make sure to apply on time for renewal. Failure to do so may impact your status and ability to continue working.
Are there any timelines I should be aware of when starting a new academic program?
- According to the 150-day rule, if you are attempting to transfer your SEVIS record from a prior school to a new school, you have a 150 grace period between the end of the prior program or OPT expiration date and day one of the new program.
- If your SEVIS transfers to a new school and you are currently working on OPT, your OPT will be cancelled and you must stop working until you receive Day 1 CPT work authorization and the academic period begins.
- The 60-day rule requires application for transfer to a new school within 60 days of graduation or OPT expiration. SEVIS cannot be transferred after this 60 days if the deadline is missed.
Is there anything else I should know?
- In some cases you can enroll at a Day 1 CPT University after the semester has begun. Enrollments periods for Day 1 CPT are more flexible than traditional periods.
- Transferring to another Day 1 CPT school after enrollment is permitted.
- Transferring to a different company during your CPT period is permitted. Contact your school first and make sure to update SEVP as soon as possible.
- If there is a brief gap in work authorization when switching from OPT to CPT, you may not work during that period in time. You may restart work after you receive the new CPT authorization. Applying for Day 1 CPT as soon as possible will help reduce this gap in time.
- You do not need to complete your degree program if you receive an H-1B visa, but it recommended that you at least complete the semester and receive grades and a transcript. Consulting the school’s DSO or advisor or an immigration lawyer should be your first step if this is your situation.
- International travel during Day 1 CPT is permitted.
- Utilization of full-time CPT for 1 year (365 days) or more will result in loss of OPT opportunities after graduation.
- Switching to F-1 from H-1B or another non-immigrant status to use Day 1 CPT is acceptable. Switching back to H-1B once you find a job is acceptable as well.
This blog article is the opinion of Immigration Law Group LLP and should not be interpreted as legal advice. Should you require legal advice or a more thorough assessment of a specific situation, please contact our office for an appointment or consultation.
Immigration Law Group LLP has served Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area since 2001. Corporations retain us to manage complex corporate immigration matters facing their employees around the world. Whether you require immigrant or non-immigrant services for a small startup or a large, multi-national enterprise, our team leverages decades of experience as well as innovative case management technology to ensure your company is positioned for success in an ever-changing global marketplace. If you would like to know more, please contact us today at (408) 432-9200.